An edited version was published in The Kashmir Reader
Matriculation results have been declared a few days ago. A lot of congratulatory messages and almond bags were exchanged. The parents who have put their children under microscopic vision finally heaved a sigh of relief. Now they could relax knowing that their kids have succeeded at the matriculation level. This is one of the most important events in any Kashmiri’s life. So the pressure on the kids is immense to the point they can’t even have a break from the pressure.
From the parents to the school managements wanting their students to score higher marks at the Board Examination. This is all to improve their ratings among the cutthroat competition between private schools. So if somebody makes it to the list, the admission fees sees a raise. The newspapers are flashed with PR ads from these schools, ‘100% result’, “Secured Top Positions” and the number of distinctions secured.
This has happened for many years now, the tradition is repetitive. The only way we can evaluate our schools is through the results they secure. This premise or the benchmark for excellent education is rated on a flawed premise. The 20th century system armed with sticks, soi and seriousness towards percentage doesn’t fit in the real world.
The education system needs reforms not assessing the abilities of the students through the amount of lessons they can cramp up in a two hour exam. Does that reflect their intelligence overall? Does a 50% grader have less intelligence and capability to make it successful in the real world? Are those kids who don’t make it in the lists of success, good for nothing? The fear of failure that has been built by our families, society and education system leaving our future i.e our children in abject danger. Our idea of success shouldn’t be restricted to Kashmir alone, but we should think beyond. Think global.
Let’s take an example of education system in Finland. In Finland their is no mandatory exams for the students until they are seventeen. This is because the thinking of the education system where emphasis is on the holistic development of their children rather than raising the level of memorization among them. There are no ranking systems or competition between schools, districts or regions. Every school has the same national goals which act as vision for each school. The children are prepared to ‘learn’ to not to take a test. Every teacher knows the abilities of each student in the class, their is no standardised tests because not every child has the same learning capacity. So they design the curriculum accordingly and give special attention to children who have difficulties. This is not to improve their grades but their learning abilities. This stress free environment nurtures these children who have the highest scores in Mathematics and Science in the world. Not because they compete but because they develop love towards these subjects.
Now look at Kashmir, the first thing a kid is taught is ‘Do not fail’, so stress to get higher grades is the first thing they are being instructed. It takes away the joy to learn and develop thinking. Then the entire family basically demand his marks-sheet from Kindergarten until the end of high school. ‘Hamsaay shures aayi 90%’ this makes the kid believe he’s good for nothing. So if he doesn’t fare well in his studies because he accepts his learning abilities as his fate, he’s not allowed to play sport. ‘Darbedar shur’ that he hears all his academic career. The teachers in school basically make the kids slave on their homework, they feel compelled to do it just to avoid the shaming and beating. Then comes the boards from 8th to 10th these kids are stricken with fear of failure. They avoid all other activities just to satisfy what their parents want, but where do their passions count? Nowhere.
So 12th exams happen, and they graduate from college. Looking for jobs in the real world. If they are lucky they end up with jobs or mostly as it happens; unemployed. As the skills they have acquired are so 20th century and its 21st century. So where’s the solution?
Tranformative edcuation reforms need to take a keen attention towards making our students ‘a 21st century education’ where the students are nurtured to be inquisitive, reformative when it comes to real world problems and acknowledge their place in the increasingly globalised world. They need to live in a world where creative thinking and problem solving are valued over the memorisation of facts and figures.
Let’s bring programming language in our curriculum to create learning of computers not ‘Remove your shoes when you enter the computer room’. Let’s create knowledgeable children who know the local history with world history not restrict them to ‘How great Gandhi was’. Let’s create a sense of inquiry among them rather than taking what the teacher tells them as gospel truth.
Creating communication skills and personality development among the children of Kashmir can be a gamechanger. The need is to lead not to compete with the Indians. These children will become visionaries tomorrow if only they are treated and nurtured in that manner. We always hear children are our future but how many times have we realised that their future we imagine is a ‘Thaez Kursi’.
The important thing is to reform Kashmir by balancing knowledge based learning and skills together. So when they come out in the real world, they emphasise on how to improve it by being role models not just employees. This emphasis on creating leaders from our students will be of great benefit for our children. For this to happen; teachers, parents, administrators need to do a soul searching and have the courage to innovate.